In Jett: The Far Shore, there’s a plan to work, and it’s time to work that plan. Mei has just left home, a secluded village that speaks highly of her for being chosen as the anchorite that will be a part of a scouting party for a space expedition heading to a place called “the far shore.”
The fact that Mei’s people are planning a departure from their planet, one that appears full of pollution and harmful industrialization, to a distant destination in what I can only presume is an attempt to escape a dying world is already an intriguing premise. And I want to see that plan through, if only in hopes of the process uncovering the reasoning for that plan. It’s an intriguing start to Jett: The Far Shore, a cinematic action-adventure game that sees you pilot a scouting ship across multiple islands located in the ocean of an alien planet.
Still, the story falters on delivering a compelling narrative payoff, and the gameplay is too restrictive when you are not soaring through the air. I saw the plan through, and I discovered the reasoning for the project, but my satisfaction at that moment was largely dulled by the journey I took to get there. Most of Jett: The Far Shore is spent flying your Jett, your primary means of navigating the in-game world and interacting with its fauna and flora.
The ship glides above the ground, satisfyingly responding to your inputs as you surge forward, and there are various maneuvers that you can attempt to give your flying a bit of flourish, such as popping your boosters to leap over obstacles or reversing your thrust to drift around corners. Push your machine too far, and you may crash and damage your shield or overheat and stall the engine, consequences that can leave you at the mercy of the world’s harsher environmental elements or dangerous predators.
When flying over the open sea or across the valleys and mountains of the islands, controlling your Jett is a beautiful sensation. It was always exciting to be given a new flight destination and see that it was far away, knowing I was being given another chance to push Mei’s Jett: The Far Shore to the limit and race through the air, taking in the sights and sounds as I went.
Rarely do waypoints encourage you to race against the clock (on rare occasions, a chasing creature or an approaching dangerous phenomenon will task you with racing ahead) as Jett is essentially a casual journey, but it’s fun to cut loose every once and a while and push yourself. It’s exhilarating to pull off a maneuver you struggled with before your growing experience rewarding you with the know-how to pull off increasingly thrilling stunts in pursuit of your next destination.
Gathering these observations is key to Jett’s story Mei is a scout after all, but they also bring the game to a sudden halt. Turning off your Jett: The Far Shore’s propulsion slowly hovering around a space and scanning everything in the vicinity is not very fun. You do not even need to figure out what in the environment is important enough to check to pull out your scanner, and the game will immediately highlight what around you can be interacted with.
It might have been cool to figure out that I could use my Jett: The Far Shore’s engines to attract and lead the shock serpent to an infested plant bed that could be cleared with an electric charge or that turning on my Jett: The Far Shore’s headlamps could scare a brute into hopping towards and eating a group of chirping insects that were waking up the creature I was trying to sneak upon. All the time, people are talking to Mei to convey information, sometimes concerning your goals, and sometimes to set the stage for the story that’s unfolding before them.
Although people are audibly speaking and their voices and words are heard, it’s all gibberish, and you can only understand what is being said if you look at the subtitles, which is a problem in this case. However, here’s the catch: Reading subtitles and driving is like trying to do both simultaneously: it’s difficult (which should be obvious; there’s an excellent reason why people are not allowed to text while driving in the real world).
Most of the time, you will be forced to put down what you are doing and wait for everyone to stop talking before you can continue. With practice, you know what the strategy is and why Mei’s inclusion in the scouting party is critical. She observed how people talk about the plan, and Mei’s role allows you to find out more about the game’s goals.
Jett: The Far Shore’s plot relies heavily on her role as a believer; however, she’s the only character who never speaks, leaving you with no idea of her motivations or feelings about what’s happening to her and her comrades. Her entire persona is based on the fact that everyone is delighted to have her on board and has already proven to be the group’s most capable pilot.
Mei’s friends and family begin to wonder about the role of their society as they prepare to move into this new world. It’s best to experience Jett: The Far Shore when you are speeding through the air and given the freedom to determine how to get where you are going on your own, not when you are hovering around a space and being guided through every step of a puzzle by someone else.
Jett: The Far Shore Even though the narrative is intriguingly set up, the overall history ultimately ends in an unsatisfying way, with protagonist Mei feeling too detached from the story and the themes it’s trying to explore due to repeated occurrences of the latter.